January 14, 2007

Tua verba gerrae sunt

In English: Your words are fiddle-sticks.

I thought this would be a good follow-up to yesterday's proverb, fabula, sed vera. Today's saying is just the opposite! It is about a story that is completely flimsy and without merit. The gerrae are literally "wattled twigs," or a light-weight construction made of twigs woven together. The word originally is Greek, gerron, and was borrowed from Greek into Latin.

I chose to use the English word "fiddle-sticks" as the translation, since I think that definitely conveys the idea here. People still say "Fiddle-sticks!" when someone makes some outrageous claim or says something that is utterly foolish.

Not surprisingly, the word gerrae was a regular exclamation in Roman comedy, as in the Asinaria or the Trinummus. The Epidicus even has the phrase, "Gerrae maximae!" - "Total poppycock!"

Although I have not been watching the TV series ROME, apparently the character Titus Pullo is fond of shouting out "Gerrae!" without any translation or explanation of the word. Presumably the English-speaking audience assumes that this is a really rousing swear-word, rather than the innocuous "Wicker-work!"

So here is today's proverb read out loud, just in case you run into Titus Pullo and want to converse:

112. Tua verba gerrae sunt.

The number here is the number for this proverb in Latin Via Proverbs: 4000 Proverbs, Mottoes and Sayings for Students of Latin.

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